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**QUESTIONS for the Avid Reader II (February & March)

Club Read 2012

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Jan 30, 2012, 11:51am Top

Previous thread (questions 1-6) HERE

Jump in at any point, NO need to answer ALL the questions. Questions posted roughly once a week.


This morning while out running errands in my car, I heard an interesting story on BBC World News. It appears that the president of the Walter Scott Club has trimmed Ivanhoe for modern audiences, cutting it roughly in half. While I don't believe that the word 'abridging' was used, the scholar discussed trimming some of the longer sentences, and removing the overuse of commas...etc with the aim of producing a shorter edition of Ivanhoe for "modern audiences." Modern audiences, he noted, have far less attention span than those previous. There was some discussion about whether this is a good thing or not, without any real conclusions. I could not link to the radio segment, but I found a similar story with the same interviewee HERE.

Making the subject a bit more general... is abridgment necessary in this modern age to ensure a classic (particularly a large one) will continue to be widely read? Do you think abridgment a negative or positive thing? Have you had any experience with abridged works?

Jan 30, 2012, 12:06pm Top

Hmmm, my initial reaction is to shout "NO" loudly and often, but after a deep breath, I would have to say that there is a place for abridged versions. My children enjoyed reading Tales from Shakespeare with me and they are still much too young to read the actual plays. I would hope that later they'll read the real thing.

I was annoyed by a few people who breezily informed me, after seeing me with the book, that they had read Moby Dick in middle school. I was appalled that it would have been considered appropriate for twelve year olds -- not on content, but a 750 page book containing long, encyclopedia-like segments would do more to kill a child's love of reading than any other book I could think of. And then, after I'd been telling him about the cetology chapter, my SO decided that he must have read an abridged version, because all he remembered was a fun, sea adventure. So shortened versions can have their place when well done, but maybe it needs to be clear to the readers that the version they are reading is not the whole story?

Jan 30, 2012, 1:30pm Top

My experience with abridged works:

My father owned a set of the collected works of Jacob van Lennep, a beautiful edition with gilded covers and engravings. When I had learned that Jacob van Lennep was my great-great-great grandfather, I was determined to read his collected works. I started reading Ferdinand Huyck, which takes place in the 18th century. Van Lennep was clearly inspired by Walter Scott, but also by his father, David Jacob van Lennep, who had made the case for the Dutch historical novel in his speech Verhandeling over het belangrijke van Hollands grond en oudheden voor gevoel en verbeelding (Discourse on the importance of Dutch country and antiquities for sense and imagination). The read proceeded mostly enjoyable, but now and then I was struck by the gross changes of scenery. In the end, I was totally upset by the 'end' of the novel with the hero being thrown in jail. What the...? Only then I noticed the foreword of the editor, which stated something like this: "This edition of Van Lennep's Works is especially made for lovers of engravings and gilded covers. To keep the costs down, we had to cut out parts of the story, but we're sure you can read the whole story in the cheap popular editions that you can buy at every street corner..." Boy, was I furious. I soon got myself one of such cheap editions, and never enquired about the gilded edition, I don't know what happened with it and I don't want to know who it ended up with.

Jan 30, 2012, 2:22pm Top

>2 RidgewayGirl: That was my first reaction also. I think, no only were they cutting the novel, but modernizing the sentence structure. Wouldn't the modern equivalent of Scott be the fantasy tomes of George R. R. Martin? There certainly cannot be much difference in word count, it seems.

Once I got thinking about it... My first reading of Jane Eyre was a Classics Illustrated comic. My first reading of Little Women, much to my surprise, was a "modern abridged edition" (Whitman Classics, circa 1964) and I spent one summer between sixth and seventh grade reading every Readers Digest Condensed* volume in the house (we had no access to the town library and during the summer the school libraries were, of course, closed ... one must make do with what is available!). I first fell in love with The Count of Monte Cristo as an abridged version. I have long since read the originals of the Bronte and Alcott, several times over, and they are great favorites of mine. Looking back, I can't say that reading abridged or condensed editions somehow hindered my becoming a reader, in fact, I might suggest the opposite.

Of course, we aren't talking about young readers here, we are talking about a rewrite for adults. Does changing sentence structure and trimming out the excessive commas in a book that is antique, change our experience of the story? Can Shakespeare be just as powerful in modern English?

*"The Reader's Digest Condensed Books were a series of hardcover anthology collections, published by Reader's Digest and distributed by direct mail. Each volume contained several current best-selling novels (or, occasionally, nonfiction books), abridged (or "condensed")." (Wikipedia)

Edited: Jan 30, 2012, 2:39pm Top

I tend to think that abridged versions shouldn't be necessary. My initial thought is "Is it really so important that everyone read Ivanhoe?" There are so many books out there, can't people find books to read that appeal to them that are not an abridged version of a work? A book like Ridgewaygirl mentioned is different in my mind as it's more of a re-telling than an abridgment.

I know that I'm not interested in reading an abridged version. If I don't like it as originally published, then I just won't read it. I was like this as a child as well. I remember those reader's digest books and being horrified when I figured out they weren't "the real thing". But that's just my experience and I'm glad to hear that they've worked for others.

Slightly off-topic, I get kind of annoyed by the argument that modern audiences don't have the same attention span as years past. I feel that it's more that publishers are trying to reach a wider audience than they used to. I think there are most likely as many intelligent and well-read people now as compared to when Ivanhoe was published if you look at it from a percentage of the public. I don't know any off-hand statistics, but I would guess that literacy rates would reflect that, although I guess the more pertinent (and hard to answer question) would be to compare percentages of people who consider reading to be a main hobby, not just literacy.

Edited: Jan 30, 2012, 2:43pm Top

I don't have a problem with works that are re-cast into a shorter or condensed format, such as Alison mentions with Tales From Shakespeare, as these tend to draw the reader in, and, hopefully, also encourage her to read the original.

I do, however, dislike abridged versions that do away with large pieces of the text and claim to capture the spirit of the work. I started reading a Reader's Digest version of Great Expectations when I was in primary school, and noticed the same things that Pim did in the van Lennep books: wrenched narratives and plotholes. Luckily, I stopped reading it when I noticed that it was abridged.

That said, somethings weren't as sacrosanct to their authors as some people today claim. It is very likely that Shakespeare (and other Elizabethan dramatists) cut scenes from their works to fit the audience and the available actors, or changed things as the production went on. Hamlet, the longest of his plays, was almost definitely never performed in its entirety, even though the complete play forms a unit in one's mind. I therefore have no qualms against adaptations of these works - Shakespeare's plays are in any case for the most part re-imagined collages of the works of others. That doesn't mean that I like all adaptations of Shakespeare: I think many of them are either pandering to postmodernist pseudo-intellectualism, or are trying to accommodate new audiences by aiming for the lowest common denominator.

I also think that, with the so-called 'long tail' business model (where a large number of unique items are sold in relatively small quantities, and a few best-sellers keep the business afloat) we shouldn't worry too much about abridged versions cornering the market. As long as there are people willing to pay for the longer, 'full' version, it should be available. With the Internet, we are exposed to many more books today. Not always a good thing, as there is so much more bilgewater to wade through, but at least you can get the specific book you are looking for.

The question of whether abridged versions are good for people is a bit more complicated. I think that people will in any case buy (and read) whatever the hell they want. However, in situations where people are forced to read something (such as in school or at university) I think that the unabridged version should be mandatory. It prevents things like bowdlerisation, and, in any case, when studying something, you should at least try to get the full picture. If you aren't going to be relying on SparkNotes, that is.

Ok, mild rant over. Hope to see more people's ideas on this interesting question.

ETA: Interesting how many of us have had experiences with Reader's Digest condensed books!

Jan 30, 2012, 4:35pm Top

>5 japaul22: All horror aside, if that is all you had to read, you might feel differently (I also read that summer all of my father's war fiction, his collection of Kenneth Roberts, and one medical encyclopedia):-)

>6 dmsteyn: A great rant! It seems that if it were true that modern readers have less of an attention span, wouldn't we all be naturally drawn to shorter fiction? (novellas, short stories...etc). It could be responsible for the now fashionable 'flash fiction.' Abridgment certainly isn't new, do you suppose they were saying the same things about 1950s readers?

Jan 30, 2012, 5:28pm Top

>7 avaland: Just to clarify, I used "horrified" to try to convey that over-dramatic, childish emotion of everything meaning way more than it should. As an adult, I'm not "horrified" by abrdiged books, I'm just not interested personally.

You're right that abridgment isn't at all new. When I read The Count of Monte Cristo, I did a little research and found that it was published in abridged versions almost from the start. It was also originally published serially, so I guess it wasn't necessarily meant to be read cover to cover all at once anyway. To be authentic, I suppose I should have looked up the original publication schedule and read it at that pace!

Jan 30, 2012, 5:57pm Top

My problem with abridged versions is that it would be too easy to lose the author's intent. What might be superfluous to some might be necessary to others.

Jan 31, 2012, 1:30am Top

Q#7 – Interestingly, three novels that are sort of sacred cows for me personally have been mentioned here—namely, Ivanhoe, Moby-Dick and The Count of Monte Cristo. I read all of them for the first time when I was in the 12-to-14 age range. I was not daunted by their length. In fact, I relished the long summer vacations so I could curl up with the biggest fattest books I could find. I have recently reread both Ivanhoe and Moby-Dick and enjoyed them even more through the perspective of adulthood.

Color me old-fashioned, but I am strongly against abridgment. The authors wrote what they wrote, and it was the way they wrote that is much more important than the bare bones of any plot. I am suddenly reminded of the Emperor in the film Amadeus who disliked Mozart's music because there were too many notes!

Shakespeare is another matter altogether. In the first place, the plays were designed to be experienced on stage, not as dry reading material. Today many if not most of the plays are available on film and if young people don't have the luxury of seeing an actual stage performance, at least Shakespeare can be experienced via film or video. To see Shakespeare first should be a high priority. The reading will inevitably follow.

One last point. Books are artifacts of the age and the people who wrote them. Monkeying around with Ivanhoe because one doesn't like the punctuation just leaves me shaking my head. One of the pleasures of reading old books is the sense one has of being transported to a different time and place. In the case of Ivanhoe, the experts will tell us there are a lot of things wrong with it that make the style seem unimportant. After all, it is filled with historical inaccuracies and anachronisms. But from this distance in time and perspective, does it really matter? Can you imagine someone in the future wanting to edit Oliver Stone's films because they carried so many inaccuracies? Maybe that is an unfair comparison, but a novel, like a movie, is primarily for entertainment. One can always fact check if one is so motivated.

Okay. I'm done.

Jan 31, 2012, 3:57am Top

>Suzanne, you make a lot of interesting points. I agree wholeheartedly that seeing Shakespeare is a must, but much of what he is saying inevitably goes by you if you only watch the play.

Also concerning Shakespeare, we today almost without exception read a highly edited version of his texts, with the punctuation and spelling modernised. I don't think it always detracts from the reading of verse dramas, though some poetry should definitely be read in the original spelling. Examples of this would be Chaucer, where one loses a great deal if you don't make the effort to unravel his diction, and Spenser, who deliberately wrote in a semi-archaic diction.

I agree that most books should remain untouched as far as possible. Even glaring errors probably add to the charm of the books, and the modern editor can in any case make a note of the error and recommend a better reading, without necessarily changing it.

Jan 31, 2012, 4:24am Top

Dewald, I see what you are saying about how Shakespeare's texts have been cleaned up for the modern reader. And maybe I overstated the case for purity just a little bit.

I do believe one grows as a reader by reaching for something that is challenging to read. I first read Chaucer at college in a class devoted to reading the Canterbury Tales and we read it in Middle English. It was difficult, no getting around it, but after a while it becomes easier and I can still hear my professor reading out loud.

I agree that reading Shakespeare is very important, but my point is about the order of exposure—to see and hear it first and then read, not the other way around. I just think seeing a Shakespeare play or a film version draws you in and makes you want to read.

So bottom line, I think we are on the same page.

Jan 31, 2012, 7:08am Top

The question of abridgement seems to me to bring up the larger question of why we read. If it is purely for the story then an abridged version that includes all the major plot developments could be acceptable. If it is for something beyond the plot (the use of language, psychological insight) then an abridgement will be unacceptable.
You could argue that what an abridgement does is the same as a decent film adaptation, it maintains the heart of the novel but loses the soul.

I agree that Shakespeare (and all drama) is different - a play is a collaborative effort and as such the core text is always open to re-interpretation. As for seeing or reading, I know playwrights who claim that plays are not meant for reading, but require to be performed to be fully effective.

If modern people have shorter attention spans then why are modern novels getting longer? Are fantasy readers are new subset of people possessing huge attention spans capable of reading innumerable 700+ page behemoths? Even beyond the novel, why do people now rave about 'slow TV', like The Wire or The Killing?

Jan 31, 2012, 8:05am Top

>13 Jargoneer: Well said! We are probably not a representative cross section of the reading public here, but how many readers set out to "grow as a reader" when they pick up a book?

Yes, I was thinking of my daughter's collection of Jordan, Goodkind and Martin fantasy tomes. Has she read Ivanhoe, no. Would she? Probably not. Do you suppose that this might be the market they are trying to tap into?

Jan 31, 2012, 8:18am Top

Jargoneer >13 Jargoneer:,

I wonder about those longer fantasy/sf novels too. Genre fantasy/sf grew out of a magazine tradition, where stories, or at least serial episodes, had to be less than 50,000 words.

Jan 31, 2012, 1:58pm Top

Jargoneer – You are so right that abridgment loses the soul of a great piece of literature.

Avaland – I would agree that an adult probably does not set out to "grow as a reader." Presumably the growth took place in childhood and young adulthood. But the teachers of young people are certainly concerned with the growth as readers of their students. Sitting a tenth grader down cold with Shakespeare — or Ivanhoe — is not likely to promote interest, much less growth. And the "growth" we experienced as children is what has turned us into the readers we are today.

I also agree that it is a good idea to promote that growth by giving young people contemporary material that they relate to. And I am glad my own teachers and even my parents also promoted the classics in interesting ways that led me to want to dig deeper.

Feb 1, 2012, 7:52am Top

>16 Poquette: So, are you saying that abridgment might be acceptable for young, developing readers , but not preferable for adults?

Feb 1, 2012, 8:44am Top

In my current state of mind I want nothing to do with an abridged novel.

If modern people have shorter attention spans then why are modern novels getting longer? - Wondering that too.

Feb 1, 2012, 8:50am Top

I inherited 1954 abridged version of Les Misérables published by International Collectors Library. I think it's about 300 pages (I have a paperback that runs almost 1500 pages). The intro has a defense of the abridgement, explaining that this shortened version the what the modern reader needs.

So, 1954 - no internet, limited TV...Have we been short-attention-spanned modern readers for so long?

Feb 1, 2012, 11:32am Top

>17 avaland: So, are you saying that abridgment might be acceptable for young, developing readers, but not preferable for adults?

Huh? *scratching my head

Unless my glasses are completely fogged up, the only thing I have said about abridgment is that I am against it. Period.

Feb 2, 2012, 12:40am Top

#19 - There was a mania for abridgement and condensation in the 1950s. That's when the Reader's Digest Condensed Books began. It was all part of a trend to apply scientific management--time and motion studies, and the like--to everyday life. Everything had to be a time-saver. There was also a sense of democratization: bring the working class guy up to speed with Joe College in just a few weeks of study. It wasn't a case of short attention spans, but trying to cram the most culture into the limited time available to a busy working man.

My father subscribed to the Readers Digest books, and no doubt I read many of them, but I can't remember even a single title. Perhaps that says something about the staying power of abridged literature.

I wouldn't dare say what others should do, but in most cases I have no desire to read anything other than what the author intended I should read.

I'd seen a lot of people here talking about Porius by John Cowper Powys, so when I ran across a copy at the used book store last weekend I bought it, even though it was rather expensive. When I got home and read some of the reviews here, I discovered mine was a reprint of the 1951 edition, which--even though it's 700 pages long--was considerably abridged by the publisher. I'll probably never read it.

A more complex issue is when authors abridge their own works. Andrey Bely published his remarkable novel Petersburg in 1916. In 1922 he published a much-shortened version, which he thought was better. Is abridged "bad" in this case when it's the author's preference? I've read both, and found the longer 1916 version to be vastly better.

Feb 2, 2012, 12:52am Top

>7 avaland:

Some background first: SF was not published in Bulgaria before the late 80s - they had been publishing 3-4 books per year. Come the changes and the publishing exploded. Except that a lot of the good SF books, especially the ones from the recent years were a bit too long... and it would cost a lot to publish. So the translators were told how many page a book should run - in some cases forcing them to cut 30-40% of the book. And then there were "translators" that were doing it on their own -- a passage looks boring to them? Off it goes. (or something like that was happening -- a huge number of books were published... abridged. To the point where you do not know how things actually finished in some cases).

So back to the question: I hate abridgments. The author had his reasons to write in the way he was writing - and if this is not popular anymore, too bad. If someone wants to know what happens in a book, they either read it or they read the Cliff's Note/Wikipedia summary/someone's sploilery review. Some books are not for young readers? OK - then they will read them later.

Feb 2, 2012, 8:45am Top

>21 StevenTX: Is there a difference between abridged and edited? (I can only think that one occurs after publication, the other generally before). Many authors, once successful, have been allowed free range to publish bloated books that really could have used some editing. But abridgment suggests something less deft than editing, doesn't it?

Edited: Feb 2, 2012, 12:27pm Top

This brings to mind Matterhorn, (which I haven't read) which is one case where I know the editor told the author to reduce the size if he wants it to sell. The author reduced to work substantially and it has sold pretty successfully. So, was the published work an abridgement? Was this a bad thing?

Feb 2, 2012, 11:36am Top

What constitutes a 'final version' is becoming more questionable. Most major films now seem to get a director's cut which usually consists of adding in extra scenes but the reasoning behind this version often seems more due to commercial rather artistic reasons. Then we have various versions of famous novels which are really aimed at the academic market.
However with the advent of e-books the actual process of editing or re-writing and producing a new copy is much simpler so we may see more authors produce more variants on the original text.

Feb 2, 2012, 12:29pm Top

I've been reading this discussion, but find I don't have a whole lot to add to it. Like a lot of other people, my immediate, visceral reaction to the whole idea of abridgement is "No, no, no!" but my rational mind insists that I be willing to concede that there are maybe circumstances where it might be acceptable and people for whom it might be appealing. (I know there's a series of books that translates novels into simpler language for the benefit of people who are learning English, with vocabulary lists in the back. Part of me thinks that is an utterly appalling thing to do to any writer's work, and part of me can see how that could be a very, very effective language-learning tool, as it's much more rewarding to be able to polish your linguistic skills on an actual story -- a good story -- than on yet another dialog about how to get to the library.)

I was thinking about the point about modern novels tending to be on the chunky side and that disproving the idea that modern readers have no attention span, though, because that was also one of my first thoughts on this topic. But on reflection, I do think there is a difference. Your average novel available at the supermarket rack today may have a lot of pages, but it doesn't necessarily require as much concentrated attention as, say, your average Victorian-era classic. I'm reading a giant tome of a Stephen King novel right now, but while it's big, what it isn't is dense. Arguably what the mythical "average reader" today wants is lots of pages none of which lingers on any one thing too long.

Feb 2, 2012, 12:35pm Top

Some early novels had multiple versions too. Samuel Richardson's monster novel Clarissa went through, if I recall correctly, five different editions in the author's lifetime. By the final edition he had added more than 200 pages in response to criticism that his heroine wasn't virtuous enough, nor his villain evil enough, to meet the religious dictates of the time. The edition in print now is the first, and shortest (though still almost twice as long as War and Peace), as it presumably best reflects the author's original intent.

Feb 2, 2012, 2:18pm Top

My only experience of abridged versions is of those bragan mentions in post 26, simplified versions of novels produced for leaners of English as a foreign language; I had to use them when I taught English in Spain and I hated them - how can you reduce Tess of the d'Urbervilles to 80 pages of simplified English and think you still have Tess of the d'Urbervilles? I'd be faced with groups of Spanish teenagers telling me that Tess was 'stupid', and I'd think, well yes, if all you've got is the bare bones of the story without any character development or any insight into the characters, what can I say? She does look pretty daft.

I've learned several foreign languages, starting a couple of them well before I knew that languages were to be my career, and I've never read a simplified/abridged version in any language. If I had done, I doubt I'd have had the sheer thrill that getting through your first novel in a new language gives, or the sense of achievement. I still remember how elated I felt, aged 16, having ploughed my way to the end of my first ever novel in a foreign language (Le Ble en herbe by Colette), dictionary by my side; I doubt any of my pupils felt like that having got to the end of Tess-for-dummies. (Tess was particularly bad so it sticks in my mind, but there were others). As japaul says in post 5, is it so important that everyone should read these novels? In the case of learners of English, there are always alternatives which need no simplification.

Feb 2, 2012, 4:02pm Top

>28 rachbxl: Mine was Around the World in Eighty Days (I might have preferred the Colette):-)

Just to take a humor break, here is the Monty Python sketch of the All England Summarize Proust Contest: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uwAOc4g3K-g&noredirect=1

Feb 2, 2012, 5:35pm Top

In grade three, my teacher gave me an abridged copy of Little Women. Having previously read Nancy Drew and other children's fare, the book was a revelation to me. I loved it and went on to read the many sequels, unaware that the book had been abridged. Should my teacher have given me the unabridged version? I'm not sure I would have been as quick to dive into it. But it changed my reading and left the classics feeling accessible and exciting.

I'm not sure that denying me that book in the name of purity would have been the right thing to do. Sure, I'd never read an abridged version now, but I wouldn't want to demand that everyone else do likewise.

Feb 2, 2012, 11:42pm Top

>29 avaland: "Summarize Proust Contest" lol That is a funny concept. - Perhaps In Search of Lost Time could have been better presented in a haiku... ;)

Feb 5, 2012, 10:55am Top


What is the last book you read which features an anti-hero or anti-heroine as protagonist? Briefly explain why.

Definition: "a protagonist or notable figure who is conspicuously lacking in {traditional} heroic qualities" (common online dictionary definition, my addition in brackets)

Examples of anti-heroes in literature: Jay Gatsby, Becky Sharp, Victor Frankenstein, Don Quixote, Emma Bovary.

NOT to be confused with the antagonist, which is a prominent character who opposes the protagonist or hero/heroine.

Edited: Feb 5, 2012, 12:22pm Top

Well, I'm not too sure about the main character in the book I'm reading right now, but I don't think he's quite meant to be an anti-hero, so I'm reserving judgment. The last book I read that definitely qualifies is Lunatics by Dave Barry and Alan Zweibel, a comic novel in which one of the main characters is an obnoxious, uncouth ass, and the other is an annoying whitebread goody two-shoes type. The reader is expected to laugh at them, for the most part, rather than with them.

Although now I'm almost wondering how legitimate it is to call a comedy target like that an "anti-hero." Is that something that should really only apply to drama? Don Quixote is definitely a comic figure, though, whatever else he is...

ETA: OK, on brief further reflection, I think surely it must be reasonable to have purely humorous anti-heroes, because British comedy is full of them. If Edmond Blackadder (any of him) isn't an anti-hero, then nobody is.

Feb 5, 2012, 1:16pm Top

If you think of Captain Ahab as the protagonist of Moby-Dick, then he is a kind of anti-hero. If you think of Ishmael as the protagonist, then Ahab would not qualify. There is argument on both sides.

Feb 5, 2012, 1:24pm Top

The last book I read that definitely had an anti-hero was, well, Don Quixote. But the book I'm reading at the moment, Unclay by T.F. Powys, has 'John Death' as protagonist, sent to 'unclay' or 'scythe' certain people from a rural village. He certainly is not a traditional heroic protagonist in any sense, as he does certain disturbing things during the book, including sleeping with nearly every women in town, and almost 'ravaging' a young girl who irritates him (it sounds worse than it is in the book, although Lolita did come to mind...). All in all, a disturbing character. One moment, he's the most kind and compassionate figure in the book. The next, he's sharpening his scythe, exuding menace throughout the village. Because the novel is so allegorical, I assume that Powys is trying to capture the essence of 'Death', which can be both viscerally frightening, yet also strangely comforting. It has made for a disquieting read so far.

Feb 5, 2012, 7:37pm Top

>35 dmsteyn: I found your comments about "Death" interesting. Last night, I started re-reading the YA novel, The Book Thief. "Death" tells the story of the book thief, and as the story goes on, you find yourself actually liking the character, Death. But he is not heroic; he can't be - the rules don't allow it. I found this version of the character Death oddly comforting too - but never frightening. It's interesting that you're finding your not-so-nice all the time version of Death comforting as well. Unclay sounds like an interesting book!

Feb 5, 2012, 8:54pm Top

For me, the main character of Let's Put the Future Behind Us by Jack Womack. I never got around to writing my review of that, but he's a Russian, a former Soviet apparatchik who is doing quite well for himself in mid-1990s, post-Soviet Russia.

Edited: Feb 5, 2012, 9:05pm Top

I had to go back to August, 2011, to find an anti-hero. He was Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights. I believe that some people find him romantic. I found him to be a violent boor. Furthermore it is the relentless glumness of the novel that keeps it, good though it is, from among my favorite novels.


Feb 6, 2012, 8:11am Top

I was going to say my most recent anti-hero would be Alma, a protagonist in The Tattooed Girl. I say this with reservations because it's complicated: By some Alma could be called a (secret) antagonist to the other protagonist, Joshua, because she privately hates him and does things that could harm him...BUT I would argue that the real antagonist for each are legacies they have inherited. Alma has no heroic qualities whatsoever until later in the book... OK, not the best example.

Geesh, I hope I don't have to go back to Holden Caulfield or Pippi Longstocking to find one....

>33 bragan: I did read somewhere that anti-heroes show up a lot in satire.
>38 Mr.Durick: Violent, controlling, obsessive...

Just an interesting excerpt from a book's blurb:

"In an age of upheaval and challenged faith, traditional heroes are hard to come by, and harder still to love, with their bloodstained hands and backs unbowed by the consequences of their actions. Through penetrating readings of key works of modern European literature, Victor Brombert shows how a new kind of hero—the antihero—has arisen to replace the toppled heroic model.

Though they fail, by design, to live up to conventional expectations of mythic heroes, antiheroes are not necessarily "failures." They display different kinds of courage more in tune with our time and our needs: deficiency translated into strength, failure experienced as honesty, dignity achieved through humiliation. Brombert explores these paradoxes in the works of Büchner, Gogol, Dostoevsky, Flaubert, Svevo, Hašek, Frisch, Camus, and Levi. Coming from diverse cultural and linguistic traditions, these writers all use the figure of the antihero to question handed-down assumptions, to reexamine moral categories, and to raise issues of survival and renewal embodying the spirit of an uneasy age." --Blurb for the book In Praise of Antiheroes by Victor Brombert

Oooo, aninteresting article on anti-heroes in Psychology Today

"In our literature and films, the term anti-hero has come to mean a fictional character with characteristics that are antithetical to those of the traditional hero. Anti-heroes perform acts that are heroic but only do so through methods or manners not appearing heroic at all..."

And a quote within the article: "In her 2004 doctoral dissertation, Leslie Erickson explained, 'Anti-heroes are protagonists that live by the guidance of their own moral compass, striving to define and construe their own values as opposed to those recognized by the society in which they live. Ultimately, their methods may depict how they alter over time, either leading to punishment, un-heroic success, or redemption.'

I will tell you that this question ended up on the list after I heard an interview with Ben Kingsley, who spoke of one of the notable characters he has played being an antihero.

Feb 6, 2012, 6:27pm Top

Any character in a book by Graham Greene is an anti-hero. There are just too many of them to list.

Feb 7, 2012, 7:20am Top

>40 baswood: Oh, pick one and tell us about him... :-)

Feb 7, 2012, 7:45am Top

The question is a bit harder than I thought. Looking back over my 2011 reading, it seemed that the protagonists were a bit more complicated than hero/antihero, or the dramas in which they were placed more subtle. But I think the protagonist in The Time: Night by Ludmilla Petrushevskaya (I forget her name but it is intentionally similar to Anna Akhmatova) is most definitely an anti-hero. And here again, as bragan has noted back in #33, is satire. Certainly the author here is using Anna to question and critique Russian society in the way noted in the excerpt above: ...use the figure of the antihero to question handed-down assumptions, to reexamine moral categories, and to raise issues of survival ...

It seems genre literature lends itself well to anti-heroes, why do you think that is? Is it because it is less subtle, and that makes them easier for us to see?

Edited: Feb 7, 2012, 8:14am Top

Q7 I've been reading this discussion with interest, and have to come down, for myself, against abridgements. I like to read what the author wanted me to read. Whether there is a role for them is a different matter; I tend to think there are enough books out there for "people with shorter attention spans" (whoever they are) that they don't need to mess with the classics.

However, Dan raises an interesting point about editing in #24. Matterhorn was one of my favorite books of the year, and I think therefore it probably benefited from the editor's suggestion. Full disclosure: I work as an editor, although not of fiction, and one of my credos is that "everybody needs an editor." Some writers are excellent self-editors, but they still can benefit from astute readers. In my experience, most writers write too much, because they want to tell the readers everything they know. A skilled editor can help a writer focus and shape his or her writing, and tightening something up often makes it more powerful. Of course, the editor must also be attuned to keeping the writer's voice and style. OK, off of soapbox.

Will come back to Q8.

Feb 7, 2012, 8:33am Top

>43 rebeccanyc: I so much agree with your credo!!

Feb 7, 2012, 11:05pm Top

I was thinking that I don't read books with heroes, they are all anti-heroes - Hans Castorp in The Magic Mountain, Ida Ramundo in History, A Novel by Elsa Morante... then I saw a Wheel of Time book on my list.

Feb 7, 2012, 11:17pm Top

So, for clarification, is this correct? An anti-hero is just a plain old average or less than average person who doesn't do anything very exciting in the novel. So, a bad person is not necessarily an anti-hero, she could be heroically bad.

Feb 8, 2012, 7:12am Top

Doesn't the hero or antihero have to be the person whom the story is about, in some sense? The antagonist is someone who opposes the "about" character.

Feb 8, 2012, 7:09pm Top

Dan, I am not so sure about Hans Castorp. Heroic in the end?

Feb 8, 2012, 11:27pm Top

bas, wondering what I missed or forgot. He's average throughout, merely exceeding at observing and fitting in.

Feb 8, 2012, 11:53pm Top

A hero is someone who struggles on behalf of others in support of society's accepted values. I would say an anti-hero, then, is someone who struggles on his own behalf in some way against the accepted norms and values. Hans Castorp doesn't struggle at all; he just submits, so I wouldn't call him either hero or anti-hero.

Feb 9, 2012, 8:03am Top

Wouldn't it also depend on whether the reader (is intended to) find(s) the protagonist sympathetic? A character can actively work against a society's values, while drawing the reader into his or her reasons for their behavior, or they might simply be likeable. In The Many Deaths of the Firefly Brothers by Thomas Mullen, the protagonist behaves reprehensibly, but engages the reader's sympathies from the first chapter.

Almost Moon by Alice Sebold features the least likable protagonist I have encountered in years. Not only does she end her mother's life in a not-quite mercy killing, but every life decision she makes is a bad one.

Feb 9, 2012, 8:30am Top

I have to agree with Lois in #43 that the protagonists in most of the novels I read are too complicated to be called either heroes or antiheroes. I am not sure that they are really struggling for the most part, except possibly with themselves. That said, I think the books I read tend more towards antiheroes: Ossama, the protagonist of The Colors of Infamy seems to me to be an antihero not because he is a thief, but because he subverts the values of society by mocking it; Hadoula, the protagonist of The Murderess wishes life were easier for the girls and women on her remote Greek island, an admirable goal, but her method of dealing with their hard life is hardly heroic. I am not sure that the concepts of hero/antihero are that relevant to much of contemporary and 20th century writing.

Feb 9, 2012, 1:59pm Top

Looking at Steven's definitons, which I like, it seems there are characters who could be either, depending on the reader's perspective. The Reluctant Fundamentalist comes to mind.

>52 rebeccanyc: I am not sure that the concepts of hero/antihero are that relevant to much of contemporary and 20th century writing -- I think you just resolved for me my love for both Victorian literature and the characters of writers like Robert Stone and Philip Caputo: the writers' strong link to their respective eras. Thanks!

Feb 9, 2012, 3:03pm Top

I think the common thought as I was reading up on antiheroes was that the old model of "hero" doesn't fit our times any more, that we are in an era of 'anti-heroes' (epic fantasy, sword & sorcery, perhaps some historical fiction, being exceptions, of course)

Feb 9, 2012, 3:26pm Top

Q7: When I taught EFL (middle school age), I avoided abridged books and opted for books with more accessible language or short stories that we could go through in more time and detail. I felt strongly that students should read what the author wrote and thus see the language in its intended form. As an adult learner of a couple of languages in intensive immersion courses, we did have to read a couple abridged books early on in the courses. I understood, and in those cases it made sense to give us books that were popular with adults in our new culture/language, but that we weren't ready to tackle in their entirety. It also exposed us to popular authors - and therefore good cultural references - from the languages we were learning.

Q8: Would Engleby in Engleby count? Unreliable, not very heroic narrator/main character. Or is he beyond anti-hero territory and into flat out bad guy?

Edited: Feb 9, 2012, 3:39pm Top

Since Q8 has been a toughie, I thought I'd bring out Q9 a bit early (and we might use this question again late in the year).


Of your recently read books, which one has the most striking cover? If you are able, post it here and tell us why you were struck with it. How does it relate to the book…or does it?

Instructions for posting covers: Here is the line of html code to type into your post (I've posted it here as an image so you could see the code). In another browser window, go to the book's page* and right click on the cover. Choose "copy image url" (or something similarly named). Return to your post and paste what you just copied into the spot between the quote marks that says "imagelocationhere". You can adjust height by changing the number, but 200 (pixels) is pretty standard here on the LT boards. If you haven't done this before, sometimes it takes a little practice. Just make sure you don't have extra spaces in there.

Feb 9, 2012, 3:50pm Top

Ok, I thought this would be an easy one. There have certainly been a lot of interesting covers on the books I have read, but nothing I was particularly "struck" with. Most are very nice and communicate what they need to. However, I had to go back to 2011 to find:

Here we have rubbish and the words "isle of dreams" on the same cover, and it represents the irony in the title for the Isle of Dreams is a rubbish dump! I liked the delicateness of the presentation, too. I think it is more in keeping with the main character.

But the cover I'm in love with is on a book that has passed through my hands recently:

Feb 9, 2012, 4:41pm Top

The most striking and attractive cover from a book I've read lately is this one from Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood.


The image is taken from the painting shown here by Lucas Cranach (1472-1533) of Adam and Eve. The novel is a dystopian story about an experiment in genetic engineering to create a new version of the human species. The Garden of Eden motif is certainly apt, suggesting creation, forbidden knowledge, and impending catastrophe. The mirroring of the image suggests cloning.

Feb 9, 2012, 5:20pm Top


I am disappointed in most of the covers of the books I read, but I really liked this one, because it both is attractive and dramatic and because it captures the medieval time period of the story.

Feb 10, 2012, 4:17am Top

The cover of Voices from Chernobyl by Svetlana Alexievich, which I just finished, really struck me. Unfortunately, I don't think the full impact comes through in less than life size, but:

There's just something about that big, deformed "O" that is weirdly horrifying, in context. I just can't stop staring at it. Although maybe it's just me. The writing scrawled under it is actual text from the book, transcribed words from Chernobyl survivors. The most legible bit reads, "My daughter died from Chernobyl. And they want us to forget about it."

(That, "Hey, look, this book won some kind of award" badge on there does kind of mar the effect, though.)

Feb 10, 2012, 7:49am Top

>58 StevenTX: Apparently, she is writing a third book to make it a trilogy.

>59 rebeccanyc: The art, if not actually taken from, is certainly reminiscent of Hokusai.

>60 bragan: The reduction to black and white is also contributes to your focus on that O.

Feb 10, 2012, 7:49am Top

From 2011, I liked the cover of Red Plenty by Frances Spufford:

That Soviet modernist look. Although it does commit the sin of repurposing the Russian "Ya" letter as a backwards "R". Don't you want to ride that monorail?

Hmmm, may need to do my own scan at higher resolution, there

Feb 10, 2012, 1:10pm Top

Question 8

>50 StevenTX: Sorry to be late to this discussion, but I am struggling with the definition of hero and by extension, heroic acts. Does it make a difference how narrowly “society” is defined in reference to its values? Or whether the specific values in question would be judged as negative if viewed in a larger societal context?

For example, I recently read The Broken Word: An Epic Poem of the British Empire in Kenya, and the Mau Mau Uprising Against It by Adam Foulds. It is the story of Tom, a young man who joins the British colonists’ Home Guard and is swept up in committing extreme acts of violence and torture. I have been struggling to understand why it is subtitled as an epic poem, which would imply heroic acts. Although not acceptable within broader societal norms, the violence committed is consistent with the prevailing values of the settlers’ militia. By strict definition and in this limited context, would the violence therefore qualify as “heroic” and Tom as a hero? Or maybe the label was simply an inappropriate addition by the publishers.

I'd love to hear others' thoughts on this.

Feb 10, 2012, 3:53pm Top

>63 Linda92007: I think the definition of hero is based on the classical and other mythologies where the hero exhibits qualities such as self-sacrifice and courage, and who is often held up as a moral example (Joseph Campbell wrote about this in his Hero With a Thousand Faces.

Sounds like Tom is an antihero, an interesting antithesis to the traditional, often-romanticized war hero. Maybe the difference sometimes between a hero and antihero is the way the story is told?

Feb 10, 2012, 6:28pm Top

The Infinity of Lists by Umberto Eco was one of my favorite books last year. The cover depicts part of a painting called The Golden Stairs (1880) by Edward Byrne-Jones. I love the dreamlike quality and beauty of the women in this painting. A suggestion that a countless number of women are descending these golden stairs evokes the theme of the book. Here is the complete painting.

Feb 11, 2012, 9:21am Top

Q9: The most striking cover for this year so far would have to the cover for The Stones Cry Out

The sullen looking man perched high atop a rock outcrop, prefectly sums up the tone and loneliness of the main character, as well as tie in the beauty of the rock.

Feb 12, 2012, 12:29pm Top


My favorite cover from last year has to be 2666, particularly the third volume with all the sea-esque items.

Another that I particularly liked was one of my Southern Reviews which featured an old nautical map of the coast (there are several fold outs of a few of these inside the issue.

Edited: Feb 13, 2012, 2:28pm Top

This message has been deleted by its author.

Feb 13, 2012, 2:13pm Top

>68 Mr.Durick: Robert, did you mean to post this on the What Are You Reading Now? thread?

Feb 13, 2012, 2:26pm Top

I did. I wonder how I made that mistake; thank you for calling it to my attention.


Feb 13, 2012, 4:38pm Top

I was about to be angry but RidgewayGirl is right abridged versions do have their place but it should be made clear that they are reading abridged versions. For instance I love shakespeare for his metaphors and the thought that people could read simplified versions and not realise they are missing out on the metaphors makes me just a little sad.

Edited: Feb 14, 2012, 9:29pm Top

I'm partial to this one:

Tiny poetry presses don't always do well with cover design. This is published by Virtual Artists Collection (which is listed as a LT member). I admire the pairing of crows in and out of their background, and I think the black & white with a hint of concrete gives a sense of the often stark poems inside.

Others worth a mention - because, while I was reading them, they just put me in the atmosphere of the book. I find it hard to image these books with different covers

Feb 15, 2012, 4:06pm Top

>72 dchaikin: The Thomas cover is terrific!

Feb 15, 2012, 5:05pm Top

By the way, thank you for teaching me how to add a cover. Believe it or not, I never knew before!

Feb 15, 2012, 5:06pm Top

>74 rebeccanyc: I think most of us learned on LT at some point!

Edited: Feb 16, 2012, 9:53am Top

Well, I managed to stretch that last question to a whole week! (which is my intended schedule...)



What one book do you feel you should read? (I know there may be many, but pick just one) Why do you feel you should read it and why haven’t you read it?


eta: I did notice someone (I forget who) had a very similar musing on their thread recently...

Feb 16, 2012, 9:47am Top

Q10. The first one that comes to mind is Joyce Carol Oates's Blonde, which sits in my JCO TBR pile. I suppose I feel I should read it because it is touted as one of her masterpieces - a re-imagining of the inner life of Norma Jean Baker who would become the iconic star, Marilyn Monroe. And I suppose I have avoided it for two reasons 1. I'm not all that interested in reading about Marilyn Monroe 2. It is a huge tome of 750 pages (however the latter reason probably trumps the former).

With all the JCO I have read, I really should know better but there it is... true confessions.

Feb 16, 2012, 9:59am Top

For me it's what I perceive as the literary canon - Joyce, Dickens, Faulkner, Hemingway are some names that come to mind that I have not read. Also Dante & Homer. And I've read very little Shakespeare, haven't finished Proust's In Search of Lost Time or the Bible (which I'm reading now).

If I had to narrow it all down to one book, it would be the Bible, which I see as a literary and metaphysical foundation. That's a big part of why I'm reading it now.

Feb 16, 2012, 10:03am Top

Q10 Well, of course there are dozens if not hundreds of books I feel I should read, but one of the top ones is Citizens by Simon Schama. I not only have been eager to read this book since I read Hilary Mantel's A Place of Greater Safety probably three years ago now, but I have repeatedly mentioned on threads here on LT that I want to read it, as recently as this week. The reason I haven't read it is because it is not only really a tome at 976 pages (which doesn't always daunt me), but it is extremely bulky and heavy (I think it's printed on thicker paper because of all the illustrations) which makes it less comfortable to read. Since it's obviously impossible to read it on the subway, it will take a LONG LONG time.

But now that I've confessed this, I'll probably have to start it . . .

Feb 16, 2012, 10:07am Top

>77 avaland: Yes, I suppose comfort is another reason. I hadn't thought of that but that works into the "tome" factor (and no, I don't want to read it on a Kindle, Nook or ipad).

Feb 16, 2012, 10:18am Top

Well, if I have to pick one... The Gormenghast Trilogy by Mervyn Peake. It's been on my TBR pile for over twenty years now. When I first bought it, I really wanted to read it, but it was very thick and I was very busy and some how I just never did... And every year since, I've looked at it sitting there and thought, "I need to read that soon." But after all this time, not reading it seems to be such a familiar and established tradition, that I'm somehow almost afraid to pull the thing down off the shelf. Which is a shame, because I'm sure it's excellent.

Oh, well. Maybe this year.

Feb 16, 2012, 10:48am Top

Like Dan I'd have to name the Bible as the biggest gap in my reading and for the same reasons he gives. I've been reading it over the last 2-3 years, not in any studious fashion but just a chapter or two at a time between other books. I'm almost finished with the Old Testament.

I've probably read what might be considered the first tier of essential classic novels. There are some important post-1950 works I still need to read, but nothing stands out above the rest. They include: Love in the Time of Cholera, The Name of the Rose, and American Pastoral.

Actually after the Bible what should probably be my next priority is re-reading the classics I haven't read since high school or, in some cases, junior high: Moby-Dick, Huckleberry Finn, Great Expectations, Brave New World, etc.

Feb 16, 2012, 11:05am Top

I would have to say reading Moby Dick or anything by Dicken's would be among thr works of classic lore that might make my list.But the books I most want to read are Dracula, Frankenstein , and the Picture of Dorian Grey . My love of horror seems a little empty without these classics and I feel I need to correct that soon.

Feb 16, 2012, 12:29pm Top

I'd have to go with Dan and Steven - the Bible is a brooding presence over most of English literature, especially the Authorized Version / King James.

As a South African, I feel I need to read J.M. Coetzee's Disgrace sooner rather than later. I saw the movie with John Malkovich, which was a bit disappointing, so I know what happens. I've read other books by Coetzee, and liked them (wouldn't say enjoyed them) so this seems like a gap.

Also, I want to read many poets - Dante, Chaucer, Jonson, The Romantics, The Victorians, Whitman, The Modernists, etc. etc. Not that I haven't read anything by these poets. I just feel I need to really absorb their works.

Feb 16, 2012, 12:57pm Top

Well, for me I'd say Don Quixote, but I have started reading that this year and intend to finish it before the year is out.

For something I've not yet started, I'd say a book by Virginia Woolf. I love reading books by female authors and have made it a point to include them in my reading, but somehow I've never read any of her novels. I will try to read probably either Mrs. Dalloway or To the Lighthouse this year.

Feb 16, 2012, 2:37pm Top

So many, but the one that stands out is Crime and Punishment. I bought it a few years ago and keep looking at it thinking, 'I should. I want to. I really, really should. Meh...later. I'll read (insert any other book here) instead.' And so it remains, sitting accusingly on my shelf.

Actually, seeing number 84 also triggered Inferno / The Divine Comedy.

Both just feel like big gaps in essential reading.

Feb 16, 2012, 3:18pm Top

Q10 This is definitely your most challenging question so far. But if I had to choose just one, I would say it is The Iliad. I read The Odyssey in high school, so it probably deserves a re-read also. Why should I read it? Because of its importance in the history of literature and poetry, of course. But perhaps even more so because I attended a seminar last year on The Iliad where one of the speakers was simply amazing. He must have been a Shakespearean actor in either this or another life. Why haven't I read it? Quite simply, I have not been able to resolve my confusion over which is the best translation to select. Everyone seems to have a different opinion, with something to recommend each. Anyone care to weigh in on this?

Feb 16, 2012, 3:33pm Top

Q10 I would have to say Landscape and Memory. The western world is rapidly losing touch with the natural world and with myth, so a book that combines them by an author like Schama would be intriguing. I have a copy of this book, however I think that what stops me reading it is the desire to do it justice and the right moment never arises. Perhaps I should just set aside a beautiful summer's day to get a good start outdoors and then it would take on a life of its own.

Feb 16, 2012, 3:37pm Top

Somehow I lost this thread, so coming in late here on Q9. Commenting on the covers of each book I read is one of my projects this year, so I can't let this question slip by . . . in fact, I could talk about it at great length. But since everyone has moved on, I'll just comment on the cover of the last book I finished.

This is a childrens book set in an alternate Venice--own with mermaids. I think this is an extremely pretty cover--I like the mix of fantasy and historical elements. I'm also a fool for book covers in aquatic-themed colours.

Edited: Feb 16, 2012, 3:41pm Top

Q 10 The first one that comes to mind is Joyce Carol Oates's Blonde, which sits in my JCO TBR pile. I suppose I feel I should read it because it is touted as one of her masterpieces - a re-imagining of the inner life of Norma Jean Baker who would become the iconic star, Marilyn Monroe. And I suppose I have avoided it for two reasons 1. I'm not all that interested in reading about Marilyn Monroe 2. It is a huge tome of 750 pages

I'm with you, Lois! That book is on the 1001 list, so it's been on my radar for a few years. However, I'm so done with Marilyn Monroe, so I can't imagine ever picking it up.

I've tackled a lot of the "I can't believe I've never read this" in the past five years or so, so I'm not feeling that there's anything I absolutely MUST read. I realize that no one can read everything, and I'll continue to read the "important" books between everything else I read.

Feb 16, 2012, 6:52pm Top

q10 The Lost Girl, because it is the only novel by D H Lawrence I haven't read. I don't really know why I have not read it yet, especially as I am a bit of a completest

Feb 17, 2012, 12:56am Top

Q#10 — Rolling around in the back of my mind since last year when I read Ron Chernow's bio of Alexander Hamilton are The Federalist Papers, of which Hamilton wrote the greater part. Chernow's book provides an excellent context for reading them, and they are so foundational to our representative republican form of government that I feel I should have read them by now. I have not because they are — let's face it — difficult. The 18th century prose is challenging as are the ideas discussed.

Feb 18, 2012, 3:45pm Top

Q10 - I've owned Anna Karenina for years, and I know I would like it, if I could just make the decision to pick it up. But, like so many of the books mentioned here, it is just so big...

Feb 18, 2012, 4:07pm Top

Q 10 -- Cait, I read Anna Karenina the last few weeks while my mom was dying of cancer, and during the month following, and it was the perfect comfort read. It carried me away to another time and place and other people's problems.

I said back in post 90 that I didn't really have any one book for this category, but I've changed my mind. I think I really should read MacBeth, just so I understand what all those cultural references are about. Witches, way-back history and Scottish castles--sounds great. I just don't like reading plays.

Feb 18, 2012, 4:25pm Top

94. I read (re-read) War and Peace when my father was hospitalized, for the same reason.

Edited: Feb 19, 2012, 4:37am Top

The Timeless Land by Eleanor Dark. I ought to read it because it's an Australian classic, comes highly recommended by Howard the bookseller whose opinion I value, and volume 1 is sitting on my shelf.

I haven't read it because The Fortunes of Richard Mahoney has left scars, and volume 1 is over 500 pages, with two more volumes to follow.

ET add link because touchstone does not work.

Feb 19, 2012, 4:15am Top

>94 Nickelini: - Joyce, I have to reread Macbeth for a course I will be tutoring, so maybe we could share thoughts on it. It's one of Shakespeare's shortest plays, and a good introduction to the tragedies.

Feb 19, 2012, 11:39am Top

Q10: The Bible and Moby Dick are at the top of my must read some day list that I don't actually plan on reading any time soon.

The Bible I feel the need to get through for socio-cultural reasons. Moby Dick has never called to me for some reason.

Feb 19, 2012, 12:17pm Top

97 - When are you reading Macbeth? I might take you up on that. I did Hamlet and King Lear (and a bunch of others) at uni, but this was the biggie that we didn't cover. Short sounds good. I just have to track down a copy (which won't be difficult).

Feb 19, 2012, 1:13pm Top

I'm reading it next weekend - I have to be able to tutor it by the 27th. Even if you only read it later, we can still discuss it :-)

Feb 21, 2012, 4:46pm Top

Q10 One book? The Canterbury Tales, for basic storytelling literacy. I hesitate due to perceived difficulty -- first of all, even which edition to select -- but it's a want-to-read not just a should-read, so I'll eventually get there.

Feb 21, 2012, 11:14pm Top

I want to read War and Peace- just never found the time.

Feb 23, 2012, 2:35pm Top


We are all going to pretend to be part of the twitterverse this week and hone our abilities to be succinct. Please write a synopsis of the book you are currently reading or the book you last read in 140 characters or less.

To make it easy for some of you not accustomed to this kind of brevity, you can exclude title and author in your character count, and place both either before or after your "tweet".

Feb 23, 2012, 2:37pm Top

Them by Joyce Carol Oates

Much angst yet hope expressed in the inner lives of 3 family members living in Detroit slums in the Much angst yet hope expressed in the inner lives of 3 family members living in the slums of Detroit in 1950s. (107)

Feb 23, 2012, 2:39pm Top

Here's one in fewer than 90 characters:

Angelic orphan meets the mean streets of London. His life sucks. Then it doesn't.

Can anyone guess what book I'm reading? Of course you can--Oliver Twist.

Feb 23, 2012, 3:20pm Top

GB84 by David Peace

British coal miners suffer while union and government fight, ignore them except to beat them up. Plots within plots. Feels like civil war.

140 exactly, but took some tweaking

Feb 23, 2012, 3:23pm Top

Morality Play by Barry Unsworth

"The play's the thing" that unravels the medieval mystery of a young boy's murder and reveals the expressive powers of the morality play.

Feb 23, 2012, 3:39pm Top

Brave men gather at Liangshan Marsh. Fighters and bandits prove their worth. One-by-one, the gallant fraternity is formed. Beware!

Outlaws of the Marsh by Shi Nai'An. (2100 pages to 130 characters)

Feb 23, 2012, 4:03pm Top

No-Man's Lands: One Man's Odyssey Through the Odyssey by Scott Huler

A guy retraces Odysseus' route (or some imaginative approximation thereof) through the Mediterranean.

Feb 23, 2012, 4:54pm Top

Swiss lecturer takes A Night Train to Lisbon in search of an author of a book of philosophy, He is dead but his thoughts live on.

Edited: Feb 23, 2012, 5:27pm Top

We are all so wrong, and it hurts so much, forever.

Paul Robeson by Martin Duberman


Edited: Feb 24, 2012, 8:33am Top

(Being a mere lurker in this interesting group, I hope you don’t mind my posting. Maybe one day I’ll set up a thread of my own – I’m contemplating it …)

Die Wand by Marlen Haushofer
(available in English translation as The Wall)

Woman suddenly isolated by mysterious wall. Only human survivor? Alp hut life with dog, cow, and cat. Imminent sorrows revealed in journal.

(139 ch. excl. title and author)

Edited to add info about English title.

Feb 23, 2012, 7:46pm Top

>112 Annix:: Congratulations, de-lurking lurker! You've already made one person (me) add a book to their wishlist, because that sounds really interesting. I was pleased to see that there is an English translation.

Edited: Feb 23, 2012, 8:29pm Top


Angel by Elizabeth Taylor: Spoilt post-Victorian English lass writes popular novels, becomes famous & wealthy, but can't buy happiness. (135 characters)

edited to fit title and author into tweet

Feb 23, 2012, 8:22pm Top


The Jewish myth. Their God kills Egyptians, so they flee. Offered divine laws, they have an orgy. After a massacre, they have a change of heart. (119, not including spaces)


The Israelites leave Egyptian slavery. They make a covenant with their God, then break it. Moses persuades God to forgive them and lead them to the promise land. (134, not including spaces)

Feb 24, 2012, 3:18am Top

A Brief History of Death by Douglas Davies

Life is spent agonising about death... and then you die.

Or (to misquote Robert Frost)

We dance round in a ring and suppose,
But Death sits in the middle and knows.

Feb 24, 2012, 7:11am Top

Note: in tweeting one gets 140 characters including spaces. (I wondered why some of these were looking longer!) But since I didn't explain this up front, we'll have to let it go:-)

Feb 24, 2012, 7:20am Top

The Caryatids by Bruce Sterling

The future drives everyone crazy, but doesn't prevent them getting on with their lives.

Edited: Feb 24, 2012, 10:13am Top

>113 bragan:
I recommend the book highly! It's very rare that I leave a book with the feeling of immediately wanting to flip back to the first page to re-read it, but this was one of those occasions. I hope you'll enjoy it.

Feb 24, 2012, 8:45am Top

Mysterious uncle, scared governess, two creepy kids, a couple of ghosts - what is going on here?

Turn of the Screw by Henry James

Feb 24, 2012, 8:51am Top

>117 avaland:
Note: in tweeting one gets 140 characters including spaces.

Can't have abridgements growing excessively long! ;)

Edited: Feb 27, 2012, 7:16am Top

>121 Annix: Well, we must not be too unfettered!

eta the "not"

Feb 24, 2012, 11:03am Top

Banning drunk-driving seems a no-brainer. One for the Road tells why the US hasn’t done so yet.

Feb 24, 2012, 11:58am Top

It’s about Love and War in the Apeninnes, mainly the 'and'.

Edited: Feb 24, 2012, 9:57pm Top

Nip the Buds, Shoot the kids

Delinquent teens in worn torn Japan left to their own devices. No good will come of this. (89 characters)

Feb 27, 2012, 7:18am Top

>121 Annix: If these get any shorter, they might qualify as Google search terms...

Feb 27, 2012, 7:48am Top

Putting my >118 dukedom_enough: into Google, the first item is a Wikihow on how to deal with a difficult daughter-in-law.

Feb 27, 2012, 9:13pm Top

>127 dukedom_enough: Good one! I did what you did: paste my "tweet" into Goggle, but I also added the word "book"

My tweet in #104: Much angst yet hope expressed in the inner lives of 3 family members living in Detroit slums in the Much angst yet hope expressed in the inner lives of 3 family members living in the slums of Detroit in 1950s.

My result was a pdf of this article:

Representing the Mad Margins of the Early Sixties: Northern Civil Rights and the Blues Idiom
by Charles Lang, Associate Professor, African American Studies and History, Uinv. of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. This is an essay that begins by talking about the representation of African Americans on the television show "Mad Men" (apparently due to be published in a forthcoming anthology)

Mar 1, 2012, 11:05am Top

Well, I hope you have all had a good nap over the last few days.


What book or books have you read recently that were either a modern retelling of a myth, folktale, classic novel...etc OR a clear homage (or 'tribute') to another author's work or style?

Edited: Mar 1, 2012, 12:00pm Top

Isn't all literature a homage to early work in some way? It's not always clear though.

Here are some that I think are clear:

1. The Five Books of Moses - clear influences from earlier traditions: Noah from Gilgamesh, The book of the covenant from the Code of Hammurabi and other law codes, etc.
2. Cain by Jose Saramanga - based on the Biblical Cain
3. Moby Dick - rife with Old Testament and Shakespeare references and influences, among many many others. I would call that a clear homage of sorts.
4. Celebrate the Sun by James J. Kavanaugh - apparently a response to Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach. These are both parables, or allegories involving birds as the main character. The writing styles are very similar, as is the length (very short) and even the size and feel of the physical book.

Mar 1, 2012, 11:59am Top


Most recently: The Adventures of Telemachus (Les Aventures de Télémaque), a Dadaist novel by Louis Aragon published in 1922 based on a satirical novel of the same name from 1699 by François Fénelon, which was, in turn, based of course on characters from Homer's Odyssey.

Mar 1, 2012, 12:11pm Top

Read last year or this year:

State of Wonder by Ann Patchett, retelling of Conrad’s Heart of Darkness -- good novel, quite good retelling although I think she says she didn't have that in mind

The Thorn and the Blossom by Theodora Goss, retelling of medieval stories of Gawan, Elowen and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight -- good ultra-short novella; good retelling based on summaries of (I haven’t read the original) source material

Bartleby & Co by Enrique Vila-Matas, homage to Melville’s Bartleby the Scrivener -- very good, though I didn’t finish (but I didn’t purge it, either)

The Train of Small Mercies by David Rowell, fictional homage to the photographs of Robert F. Kennedy’s funeral train collected in Paul Fusco: RFK -- okay

Mar 1, 2012, 1:30pm Top

Beauty Queens by Libba Bray is an occasionally funny spin on Lord of the Flies but ends up with the girls learning about themselves. (YA)

Mar 1, 2012, 1:39pm Top

>130 dchaikin: I think an homage is different than literary or biblical allusions, even an extensive number of ones. Though I don't doubt that Melville was influenced by both, I have tough time believing he wrote Moby Dick as some kind of tribute to one or the other.

I'm now reading The Flight of Gemma Hardy, a modern retelling of Jane Eyre set in 1950s+ Scotland. It's an entertaining read but nothing striking or daring.

The Lowenskold Ring by Selma Lageroff is a retelling of an old Norse myth or myths.

1222 by Norwegian author Anne Holt is a commonly acknowledged homage to Agatha Christie. The crime novel, quite good in itself, uses her style of mystery (i.e. isolated setting, set number of suspects, everyone in the room when the murder is unveiled). It's very well done and quite obvious.

The Robber Bridegroom by Eudora Welty is a retelling of the fairy tale of the same name.

Not sure if African Psycho by Alain Mabanckou is an actual homage to American Psycho or just a riff off it. I haven't read the latter. I think homage implies a work done as a tribute to someone/something you admire...

Mar 1, 2012, 1:40pm Top

>133 mamzel: I had not heard that...interesting...

Edited: Mar 1, 2012, 2:06pm Top

Most recently, I read The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey which is a modern (although set in the 1920s) retelling of the Russian fairy tale of the snow child. Last year I read Matterhorn by Karl Marlantes, which incorporates elements of the Parzival legend, Mr. Fox by Helen Oyeyemi, which references the various Mr. Fox/Bluebeard stories, and The Adventures of Sindbad by Gyula Krudy which only metaphorically connects with the Sinbad legend.

Edited to fix typos.

Mar 1, 2012, 1:56pm Top

Well, I read Lost Ground by Michiel Heyns, which is a South African take on Shakepeare's Othello. I'm also busy reading Goethe's Faust, which is obviously a reworking of the German legend of Faust.

Mar 1, 2012, 1:59pm Top

>136 rebeccanyc: I was just over on wikipedia reading up on The Robber Bridegroom fairy tale. They list it as German but akin to the English "Mr. Fox" but also related to Bluebeard (a fave of mine!).

Mar 1, 2012, 2:08pm Top

I am currently reading Kenzaburo Oe's Rouse Up O Young Men of the New Age. Oe weaves quotes and themes from William Blake's poetry and art throughout the book.

Mar 1, 2012, 2:16pm Top

The only thing close that I have read recently that would be close is Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann which is a sort of homage to Philippe Petit's tightrope walk between the World Trade Center towers.

Mar 1, 2012, 2:31pm Top

>140 janemarieprice: jane have you seen the film documentary "Man on Wire"? On DVD, outstanding.

Mar 1, 2012, 3:26pm Top

#140 I loved Let the Great World Spin and the only implicit foreshadowing of 9/11. The only "9/11 book" (in quotes since it didn't even mention it) that I have anything good to say about.

Mar 1, 2012, 9:57pm Top

Avaland, I just began 1222 today.

Mar 2, 2012, 7:44am Top

>143 RidgewayGirl: Hope you like it. I think I saw that Corvus is reprinting the first book in that series...though I suspect the whole series is not an homage to Christie.

Mar 2, 2012, 11:18am Top

While No-Man's Lands: One Man's Odyssey Through the Odyssey by Scott Huler doesn't quite count as a retelling of the Odyssey, it does retrace it, geographically, at least, and to some extent thematically.

The two Planetary graphic novels by Warren Ellis that I read recently contained all kinds of allusions and homages to other comics and B-movies and I don't even remember what-all.

Before that, I have to go all the way back to September and Lovecraft Unbound, an anthology of stories that generally try to capture the creepy spirit of Lovecraft, though not necessarily his specific style or mythology.

Mar 3, 2012, 9:52am Top

The Clerkenwell Tales by Peter Ackroyd is an homage — definitely not a retelling — to Chaucer's Canterbury Tales. It takes place exclusively in 1399 London and concerns conspiracies surrounding the theft by Henry Bolingbroke of the throne from Richard II. Each chapter is named after a Canterbury pilgrim, but there are no tales per se. It is a clever book, but not what one might expect at all.

Mar 4, 2012, 12:29pm Top

Q12 - This morning I started a retelling of Noah's ark. The novel is The Preservationist by David Maine. It got a lot of press the year it was released (2004) but has seemed to disappear since then.

Mar 4, 2012, 1:51pm Top

141 - I haven't seen Man on Wire yet but plan to eventually. We just don't watch a lot of movies for whatever reason so it takes me forever to catch up

142 - I enjoyed it, though I'm not sure I loved it. I think it was the wrong time for me to read something like that, still working towards a review.

Mar 9, 2012, 1:42pm Top


Name the last book that in your reading of it you felt crudely manipulated.

Thanks go to Nickelini for giving us the inspiration for this question.

Mar 9, 2012, 1:55pm Top

13 Happily, I have to go back to July of last year, and We, the Drowned by Carsten Jensen. In my review, I called it "a frustrating mixture of fascinating, exciting adventure and boring looks at small town life, interesting portrayals of the world and unrealistic, overly analyzed characters, insight into life as a sailor and unbelievably coincidental plot elements." It was those unbelievably coincidental plot elements, plus frequent and obvious foreshadowing, that made me feel the author was hitting me over the head to make his points.

Mar 9, 2012, 2:22pm Top

Q13 - did I say "crudely manipulated"? I don't remember. I know what book you're talking about though! Please Look After Mom. There isn't enough time or bandwidth to fully capture my hatred of this book.

Mar 9, 2012, 2:23pm Top

Q13 I think it was the first three books 3 books of Hakan Nesser. They suggest a police procedural but they are actually psychological thrillers without a lot of depth to them. I don't read many thrillers or many psychological thrillers because I often do feel crudely manipulated in my reading (and I don't get enough meat in them, if you know what I mean). These were mediocre, at best, and certainly not what I was hoping for when I picked up the books (but obviously I read three before quitting, so there's a testament to something...).

Mar 9, 2012, 2:25pm Top

Not by a standard novel in a long time, by these were crude in their political/religo-philosophical ways

Celebrate the Sun by James J. Kavanaugh - a moralistic allegory, it's manipulative by nature. I really should have hated it (my review says, "instead of bashing it, I’ll call it curious, short and not a complete waste of time.")

Fidel by Néstor Kohan - a strange blatant propaganda for Fidel Castro, so blatant I was charmed by the old-fashioned sense from it (it was published in 2010).

Edited: Mar 9, 2012, 2:29pm Top

>151 Nickelini: I wonder if such crude manipulation would work for me? I usually crudely manipulate my grown children using favorite baked goods. It seems to require less effort than writing an entire novel.

Mar 9, 2012, 3:41pm Top

Hmm, there might be a few more recent books that are iffy on that score, but the last one where I really felt it was Push by Sapphire, which piled the adversity on its protagonist a little too thick in its attempt to make me feel horrible for/inspired by her. Although I was very much of two minds on whether the crude manipulation actually worked or not.

Mar 9, 2012, 5:26pm Top

Well there are two books that I have read over the last couple of years where I have felt crude manipulation.

The immortal life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot. In this book the hero of the story is no less a person than Rebecca Skloot.

Room by Emma Donoghue. By making the five year old boy the centre of this novel it avoided the painful issues of a kidnapping and repeated rape of his mother (who was not even given the dignity of a name). This would not have been so bad if the novel had not been so blatantly based on the recent Fritzi and Kampush Kidnap cases.

Mar 9, 2012, 6:07pm Top

I was tempted to mention Room as well, but an even worse case in my opinion is Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer. The author just borrowed characters and ideas wholesale from Günter Grass and other writers and we're supposed to gush over it because it's about a little kid and 9/11.

Mar 9, 2012, 7:12pm Top

Q13 - has anyone noticed that most, if not all, of these novels have very high ratings here at LT? Rave reviews and an inordinate amount of 4.5 and 5 star reads. Does it make you say "come on people! really?" ?

Mar 9, 2012, 7:47pm Top

I 100% agree with Room. On iPhone so more later.

Mar 10, 2012, 9:55am Top

The one I think of is The Road. Did I really need 10 more little vignettes to see that the guy loves his kid? No, the first 5 did for me, thank you.

Mar 10, 2012, 10:10am Top

Oh, yes. I'd blocked out The Road, but I completely agree with you, and maybe even five were too much for me.

Mar 10, 2012, 5:39pm Top

Under the Greenwood Tree I absolutely hated this book but I couldn't stop reading it because of how well written the characters are.

Mar 10, 2012, 6:58pm Top

>160 janemarieprice: I most certainly would have also said The Road if I had gone back that far in my reading.

>158 Nickelini: herd mentality?

>162 Hope97: I certainly wouldn't have thought this Hardy (or any other), crudely manipulative....

Mar 10, 2012, 9:23pm Top

163 - >158 Nickelini: herd mentality?

I don't think that's what it is. But I don't know WHAT it is . . . there seems to be something that speaks to a lot of readers. Maybe we're just picky.

Edited: Mar 12, 2012, 5:05am Top

The Help, whose narrator was motivated merely by getting an article into the New Yorker. She certainly used those maids, and we're supposed to congratulate her for treating them with compassion.

ETA You can sympathise with the plight of the African-American maids in the sixties and be appalled at the racism of those southern housewives who treat their maids so badly. You can imagine yourself in the same situation and from your perspective of the twenty-first century tell yourself that you would not have behaved that way, then congratulate yourself.

Mar 11, 2012, 8:32am Top

>165 pamelad: I was waiting for that one to come up:-)

Mar 11, 2012, 11:37am Top

164. I think some readers like to feel manipulated . . .
165, 166. There are books I've avoided because I knew in advance they would irritate me too much, and The Help is one of them.

Mar 11, 2012, 11:44am Top

. I think some readers like to feel manipulated . . .

YES! That's a good point.

Mar 11, 2012, 2:12pm Top

>167 rebeccanyc:, 168 Agreed. And, yes, I have avoided certain books for the same reason and The Help is also one of them for me also.

Mar 11, 2012, 2:29pm Top

My take on it is this: I think there's a very fine line between manipulation that works, and manipulation that just feels, well, manipulative. Really, the whole point of books is to manipulate you, to make you feel something or think something, or have whatever response it is the writer is trying to provoke. If a book goes for a big emotional reaction and succeeds, it can be really powerful. If you can see it trying, but it fails, it just feels clumsy and insulting. Some books, I think, walk that line pretty closely, so it's not at all surprising that for some people it falls on one side of the line, and for some it falls on the other. Books like Room and The Road, for example, did work for me, even though I can totally understand the criticisms of them.

The ones I find really fascinating are the ones that, for me, completely straddle the line, where I can see them pulling the strings, but can't help but respond, anyway. Sometimes that just impresses me: "Wow, that shouldn't work, but it did!" Sometimes, it just makes me feel ashamed of myself and wonder when I became so freaking sentimental.

Mar 12, 2012, 7:24am Top

>170 bragan: This is why we used the word 'crudely' in the question:-) And do you have an example of one that didn't work for you, and one that you responded to despite knowing what was being done?

Mar 12, 2012, 8:08am Top

I can't think of an example for this one. Either I'm too smart to pick up a manipulative book, or too dumb to know I'm being manipulated...

Mar 12, 2012, 1:48pm Top

>171 avaland:: Using the word "crudely" was indeed a good choice, but of course, what feels crude can vary a lot from person to person. I really do think that's at least part of the reason why books that get a lot of praise for being moving are also often the same books people are citing on this topic.

I'll refer you to my review of Push for a really rather extreme example of what happens when part of me feels manipulated enough to be really annoyed, and part of me is responding anyway. But in the end, I can't say it worked for me. There's a reason why it's the book that immediately came to mind when I answered the question earilier.

Books that are really, obviously pulling my strings and completely work, anyway, are much rarer, and I'm having trouble thinking of an example off the top of my head. The Unit by Ninni Holmqvist almost qualifies, because I can see a million ways in which it's flawed and in which it's prioritizing pushing certain kinds of buttons over things like logic, but man does it push those buttons effectively, at least for me. I don't think it's anywhere near as crudely manipulative as a book like Push, though.

Mar 13, 2012, 7:36am Top

>173 bragan: Thanks for your extended comments. I personally don't think that most writers are so calculating in their intent as to intend to manipulate their readers. I think most just want to tell a story. But, surely some do. For me, The Road teetered on the melodramatic. The psychological thrillers I mentioned in #152 are intentionally manipulative; it's a characteristic of the genre (I read three because I kept thinking I'd catch some hard thinking, detailed, cerebral detective work eventually... but I came away disappointed....)

Mar 13, 2012, 10:27am Top

Q12: The Story of Edgar Sawtelle, which is a strong nod to Hamlet.

>133 mamzel:, Be Nice by Anabel Donald is another girls-instead-of-boys take on Lord of the Flies.

Q13: I'm still not sure whether I felt crudely manipulated by The Gargoyle or whether I just didn't like it. Like others, I've also avoided books like The Help very much for the reasons stated above.

Edited: Mar 15, 2012, 3:29pm Top


Looking back at the last book you read that you purchased NEW. Please tell us how you originally came to choose that book. What was the single most important factor involved and what other factors do you think may have played a part.

I'll list some of the factors that may or may not have been involved.

Book synopsis (the particular story it promises)
The subject matter
The author is familiar to me
The author is new to me, but is interesting in some way
A blurb or blurbs on the book by other authors
The publisher is familiar
Recommendation, professional (i.e. NY Times or Guardian book review)
Awards (it's won an award or awards)
Recommendation, nonprofessional but specific (i.e. friends, cohorts on LT...etc)
Referral: If you like this, you'll like...
General Buzz: It's hot, seems everyone is talking about it. "I've heard good things..."

You can do this in a way that's easiest for you. And certainly you can look at a couple of books you bought, if you like. The example of a new purchase would have an answer different than if you just looked at a recent read which could have been a gift or borrowed or a required book club read...etc.

Mar 15, 2012, 10:09am Top

Actually, this is kind of a difficult question and I've edited several times to make it easier.

Mar 15, 2012, 1:19pm Top

I was coming back to answer over lunch, but it's gone away. I don't have a problem with the way it was, but there are sometimes multiple reasons why I bought/read a book, so the % wouldn't add to 100%. Also, I think you should make it last 10 or 20 books so it's easier to calculate the %.

Edited: Mar 15, 2012, 3:06pm Top

>178 rebeccanyc: I had percentages, then changed it to a 1-10 scale. Then I thought that there could be very different results depending on if you were accessing from picking a book by browsing in a bookstore OR by looking back at your past reading. Still mulling how to trim and clarify it.

Mar 15, 2012, 3:48pm Top

The most recent book that I have read that I bought NEW was Pure by Julianna Baggott. I saw this in a catalog and there is really only two factors that came into play. 1. The author is familiar to me. I have read all of her adult titles and 3 of her poetry collections. 2. subject matter. I like dystopian stories.

The previous book is much the same. The Flight of Gemma Hardy by Margot Livesey. 1. author. I have read nearly all of her previous fiction. 2. subject matter: a retelling of Jane Eyre.

Prior to that it was The Lowenskold Ring by Selma Lagerlof, which I saw in a catalog.
1. Author (only familiar because of her Nobel) a. Swedish (trying to read other Swedish lit than crime novels) b. a woman (always interested in this). c. Nobel prize winner.
2. book synopsis/subject matter. I thought the story sounded interesting and it's a retold old Norse tale.

The most recent poetry three collections that I have read, purchased NEW were chosen solely by browsing the contents of the books, as I was not familiar with any of the authors. If I like a bit of what I read, why I'd take the chance I might like more.

Edited: Mar 15, 2012, 5:06pm Top

Yesterday I bought two books, Binocular Vision by Edith Pearlman and Revelations: Visions, Prophecy and Politics in the Book of Revelation by Elaine Pagels. The immediate reason why I bought these books was because I was browsing in my favorite bookstore and they looked interesting.

For the Pearlman, another factor was that it just won the National Book Critics Circle award, and I had never heard of her, and another was that Ann Patchett gave Pearlman a rave "review" in her introduction.

For the Pagels, another factor was that I had read a review of it, probably in the Times, and it sounded interesting, especially because of the increasing religious impact on politics in the US and because of the book about the first crusade I read earlier this year.

I would actually find it interesting to go further back than this, but don't want to overwhelm this thread. Maybe I'll do an analysis and post it on my reading thread.

ETA: OOPS! I read the question wrong. I'll respond to the real question below!

Edited: Mar 15, 2012, 4:40pm Top

The last book I read that I bought new was The Preservationist, by David Maine. I had read several glowing reviews when the book was published in 2004, and I thought it sounded really interesting (story and approach). I found it on a remainder table in 2005, and it languished in Mnt TBR until this month. It turned out to be a fabulous read. Bought at one of my favourite independent bookstores--Mosaic Books, in Kelowna, BC (about 4 hours from where I live).

The book before that was Oliver Twist. I had bought it ages ago too, and I purchased it because I was collecting classics and it was an attractive edition (it felt really nice and the pages turned easily). Bought at a bookstore that sells only to teachers--I was with a teacher friend.

And before that it was Sugar bush and Other Stories by Jenn Farrell, which I hunted down after being blown away by her The Devil You Know. Unfortunately, the only place I could find this was Amazon.ca. So shoot me.

Mar 15, 2012, 4:34pm Top

You forgot to add the option of where it was purchased. There aren't any independent bookstores near me, so whenever I'm further afield I make a point of buying a few books every time I'm in an independent.

As for the last book I purchased new and have read (setting aside all more recent purchases that are still on the TBR) is The Gormenghast Trilogy, purchased just after I saw the BBC mini-series, because it was so oddly compelling. I did put off reading it for years, until I had forgotten everything about the mini-series but the atmosphere.

Usually, my main reason for buying a book at full price is a newly released book by a favorite author. For the rest, I enjoy the hunt.

Mar 15, 2012, 4:34pm Top

The last book I read that I bought new was The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi.

The reason I bought it was that it had won multiple awards--I had not otherwise heard of the book or author--and the subject matter interested me. I bought it new because I had a coupon from Barnes & Noble and it was probably the only book on my wishlist they had in the store at the time. I had it for at least six months before reading it, and when I did it was because it was this month's group read for the 12 in 12 Category Challenge group.

Mar 15, 2012, 4:40pm Top

I think where you bought the book is interesting too, so I edited my message (#181). I hope you don't mind, Lois!

Edited: Mar 15, 2012, 4:42pm Top

The last book I read that I purchased was Hilary Mantel's A Place of Greater Safety. I bought it because I loved Wolf Hall and knew from reading it that it would be a dense book that I'd want to take my time with and not have library deadlines. I bought it at my local Barnes and Nobel (not on line!). I also knew it was a book I'd most likely want to reread. I bought a physical book instead of an e-book for my kindle because I don't like reading dense or long books on the kindle very much.

As a side note, I had really stopped buying books until my husband just got a new job this year that really changed our finances for the better. Last year I read 79 books and only 11 were purchased - 5 books and 6 kindle books. The rest were from the library, loans from friends, or free on my kindle.

ETA: Since my husband got this new job in December, I've already bought 14 books, so if this question is asked again next year, I think I'll have a very different answer!

Mar 15, 2012, 5:05pm Top

Ooops! I read this wrong. I reported on the last two books that I bought, not the last book that I READ that I bought new. So . . .

The last book that I read that I bought new was Sanshirō by Natsume Sōseki which I just finished yesterday and reviewed today. I bought it for the Author Theme Reads first quarter read on Sōseki, and I picked this particular book after I read and enjoyed Kokoro because, of the Sōseki works available in English translation it sounded interesting and was the first of a trilogy. I also bought the second book in the trilogy, And Then, but the third, The Gate, didn't seem to be available at the time I ordered them. I now find it is available, so I'm ordering it now.

Edited: Mar 15, 2012, 5:21pm Top

Although I have an order for about 22 books in with AbeBooks, most of which is used, almost all of the books that I read are ones that I have bought new, most of those from BN.COM, almost all of them as trade paperbacks, my preferred format.

I have, however, most recently finished The Beginning of Infinity by David Deutsch which I got from the Scientific American Book Club new as a half price hardcover. The exact order of motives is fuzzy. Science is a big attractive cloud. Then half price drew me deeper into the cloud. Then 'infinity' shined brightly. That was backed up by the book's being fairly new and by an established author.

It was all for naught. It wasn't a very good book.


PS What is the grammatical number of 'most?'


Mar 15, 2012, 5:34pm Top

The last book I read that I bought new was We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver. It was for my book club, but I still think it counts, because it was my suggestion. I chose it because of several reviews I've read on LT, most recently Joyce's (Nickelini's). The subject matter was intriguing, and so were the conversations and varied reactions others were having about the book. My friends were more interested in it because of the recent movie, I think.

Before that, I bought and read Various Positions by Martha Schabas. I read about it in a Best Books of 2011 list (the Globe and Mail's, I think), and chose it because it is a debut novel, and it is about ballet. I generally enjoy books and films about various performance arts, and I am a big ballet fan. Debut novels I think are interesting, because I don't have any preconceived notions about the worth of the author (for example, do I just love every new novel by Michael Ondaatje and Margaret Atwood because of their reputations and past novels, or because they are actually good?) - though I guess the fact that I found the novel on a "best of" list meant I went into it with high expectations...

I've noticed that I buy certain books on my Kindle, and others in physical form. The ones I buy in paper form are generally by favourite authors, or to complete a series, whereas a new-to-me author I try out on my Kindle first - it's cheaper, and they don't take up space. If I think the book is likely to be a favourite, I'll still buy a physical copy. I guess I haven't totally embraced technology just yet!

Mar 15, 2012, 6:33pm Top

The last book I read that I bought new would be When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead, and it's one of those books where the question of what prompted me is a fuzzy one. I guess I'd have to attribute it to "general buzz." I have a vague memory of reading some discussion of it, probably here on LT somewhere, that made it sound very much like the sort of thing I'd like. So, as with most things that fit that description, I stuck in on my wishlist. Then, a few months ago, I was browsing around the Powell's website and happened to come across a new trade paperback copy of it for all of $6.99. At that point, I couldn't even very well remember what it was supposed to be about, or why I had wanted it, but there was this little voice in the back of my head insisting that, yes, this was a book I should buy. And, well, I had a gift card... So, into the cart it went. Turns out that little voice was correct, too, because I enjoyed it.

The book I last read before that was a gift, but the one before that was The Psychopath Test by Jon Ronson, which I bought mainly because I'd heard the author talk about it on a podcast interview or two, as well as reading some excerpts from it on This American Life, and it sounded interesting. And I'd rather enjoyed his The Men Who Stare at Goats. And, well, I happened to come across it when I stormed the Barnes & Noble in an attempt at stress relief via book-shopping. All kinds of books ambushed me in my vulnerability that day.

Mar 15, 2012, 7:24pm Top

Readers of my thread may recall that the last book I read was Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino. I read it because it is by Calvino — somehow it had escaped my notice heretofore — and because it was recommended to me by dmsteyn, zenomax and DieFledermaus. It falls in a genre that detailmuse has dubbed "quirky dreamy novellas" a number of which I have read and reviewed recently and many Club Readers have kindly suggested several more that fit into that category. As soon as it arrived, I dropped everything to read it and it now tops my list of favorite "quirky dreamy novellas" which also includes A Mapmaker's Dream and A Troubadour's Testament both by James Cowan and Einstein's Dreams by Alan Lightman.

Mar 15, 2012, 7:46pm Top

The last new book I read was The Selected writings of Christine de Pizan
This was selected because of my own project for concentrating on literature from the 15th Century

Previous to that was Arjun and the Good Snake by Rick Harsch this was a group read on one of the LT groups.

I am going to be starting very soon Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens as this is a selection by my local book club.

The above three choices represent pretty well how I select all the new books I buy:
1)15th century reading project
2) LT group reads and recommendations
3) Book club choices.

Living in France I have no English book stores near me and so book browsing in the flesh is not an option. I buy all my books through Amazon marketplace or Abe Books.

Mar 15, 2012, 8:09pm Top

>180 avaland:, 185 Well then, my purchase of the Baggott and the Livesey were from the independent bookshop I used to work at (they still give me a discount, especially since I drive more than 50 miles round trip to shop there) and the Lagerlof was bought from The Book Depository UK, I think.

Because I go through 250-300 publisher catalogs every other month, I am at no loss of interesting books to explore:-) (though, also because of it, I have far less time for reading!)

I also should add that I bought Tragedy: A Very Short Introduction new (I forget from where!) because I was interested in the subject as a consequence of my readings of Joyce Carol Oates, AND because the idea of "very short introductions" appealed to me.

>192 baswood: Ah, "the era" is an interesting factor. I guess in this case that's your subject as opposed to the book's subject.

Mar 16, 2012, 10:46am Top

The last book I bought new that I read was Heaven Cracks, Earth Shakes. I bought it online on the basis of a radio interview with the author, James Palmer. I have another book by him, The Bloody White Baron, but that did not influence this purchase. I bought it for

1. subject matter (People's Republic of China)
2. excellent interview
3. I have been to Tangshan

My usual reasons for making a purchase are a combination
1. subject matter (in my case often related to era)
2. reviews in publications like the New York Review of Books and others
3. LT reviews since I have joined LT
4. radio interviews with the author by certain interviewers
5. certain publishers
6. the author, if it is a work of fiction

The reasons above would be for books I buy online. However, when I get to a city and wander into real bookstores, all bets are off and I am often reduced to mere impulse!

Edited: Mar 16, 2012, 8:22pm Top

The last book I bought new was Thinking in Time: The Uses of History for Decision Makers. I heard about it from a blog post by the excellent James Fallows at the Atlantic Monthly, and when I went to add it to my wishlist I saw that the Kindle edition was half the price of the physical book. I figured that it wasn't the sort of book that was very likely to turn up in secondhand bookshops or on bookmooch, where a lot of my books come from, and I was interested enough in the topic/recommendation to make it worth buying immediately.

The last book I finished that I bought new was The Flavour Thesaurus, although I had been reading it for a very long time. With this one, I was intrigued by a review by Nicholas Lezard, who has a regular column in the Guardian, which always recommends interesting books. Then I saw a copy in a bookshop and it was such a lovely book physically - hard covers, nicely laid out - that I wanted to buy it.

Before that was The Fortnight In September, which I bought because I was in the Persephone bookshop and wanted to buy something there. In fact, I think they had a special deal if you bought three so I spent a long time going through the piles of books trying to work out which three I most liked the sound of.

I think this is a good indication of my book acquisition - mainly recommendations from trusted people (including here on LT, although that's not reflected in these three), but also the desire to buy a book when I am in a particularly nice independent bookshop.

Mar 19, 2012, 9:37am Top

The last book I bought new but haven't read yet was a binge buy at the airport less than 2 weeks ago: One Fine Day in the Middle of the Night by Christopher Brookmyre. I should be starting it this evening, so included it here. I wasn't sure how quickly I'd get through my other airplane reads, and have been wanting to read this one for some time now. Scottish author, highly praised book, read one other of his and enjoyed it well enough. Probably should have planned ahead and gotten it at Oxfam, but so it goes.

The last book I've read that I had purchaased new was Dark Matter by Michelle Paver. I usually don't buy books new, but I can get swayed when I find myself in a bookstore. It was a three-for-two or the like, and the setting and subject matter appealed - dark, moody Scandi locale and I'm on a bit of a ghost story kick.

Edited: Mar 19, 2012, 11:27am Top

This message has been deleted by its author.

Mar 19, 2012, 2:03pm Top

The last book I read that I bought new was Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann based on several good reviews and the fact that we got stuck in the airport and I was worried about running low on books.

The last book I bought new was Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino based on Poquette's wonderful review.

Mar 19, 2012, 4:00pm Top

The last book I bought new and read was Troubles by J. G. Farrell. I had it on my wishlist based solely on its many positive LT reviews and then had the opportunity to snag the Kindle edition at greatly reduced cost through one of their "Special Offers and Sponsored Screensavers".

I used to buy books more on impulse, but since joining LT, my wishlist is so long that I usually look for something where I have read or heard a review or author talk. And I'm trying to be better about checking the library before buying, but that resolve generally doesn't hold up when I am face to face with something I really want to read. Although I try to use restraint with newly published e-books where the publisher has set a high price.

Mar 19, 2012, 5:16pm Top

I just finished 'Tis by Frank McCourt, which I bought new mere days (maybe hours) after finishing Angela's Ashes … in 2004! 'Tis doesn’t have the best ratings on LT, and I wonder if that’s partly in comparison to Angela's Ashes? I separated the two by eight years and loved Tis almost as much as AA. However, I read McCourt’s third, Teacher Man, in 2005 and rated it 3-stars for no reason I can discern now except maybe proximity to AA.

Mar 21, 2012, 12:48pm Top

I recently bought the second book in The Penderwick series, The Penderwicks on Gardam Street, because I was so excited that my daughter like the first book so much. I read it to my daughter, and it's the last book read that I bought new.

Edited: Mar 21, 2012, 4:28pm Top

Looking back at question 13 and the discussion there, it occurs to me that all literature is a form of manipulation - all communication is.

The question is about the crudeness. This is purely subjective. If you loved the book, you were successfully manipulated. If you felt manipulated, than the book was less successful and you might call the manipulation crude.

Mar 21, 2012, 7:19pm Top

>202 dchaikin:: Thank you, that's sort of what I was trying to say on that discussion, and was, alas, not doing a very good job of putting it anywhere near that simply or clearly. :)

Mar 22, 2012, 8:15am Top

It came from reading your post - 170... :)

Mar 22, 2012, 8:24am Top

Excellent point, Dan AND bragan!

Mar 24, 2012, 8:21am Top


There has been a long history of movies being made from books. Literature and film are two very different means of telling a story and one doesn't always adapt to the other well, sometimes changes have to be made for brevity or other reasons. Does a 'great' adaptation means only that it follows the book accurately or does it mean it is faithful to the story despite changes? Is there room for interpretation? Is an excellent adaptation one that makes you feel the same way the book does? Is literature now written always with the idea that it might be adapted to film? These are just some preliminary questions to get your cerebral juices flowing.

(for the purposes of keeping the following question somewhat simple, we are talking about film, not drama/stage)

Please tell us about two movies you have seen that you regarded as excellent adaptations of books you have read: 1. a modern book written during the era of film 2. a classic written prior to the advent of film. Why did you regard them as excellent?

Mar 24, 2012, 8:47am Top

I'm answering off the top of my head and may have more thoughtful responses later.

Without a doubt, and this may not be exactly the question you're asking, The Godfather movies (1 and 2, not the awful 3) far surpass the book, which is pedestrian and badly written (although with some scenes I greatly enjoyed as a teenager!). The movies on the other hand are superb, brilliantly acted and directed, and bring out themes of history and morality that are not apparent in the book. They also invent scenes that are not in the book, but that add depth.

As for classics, it is hard to surpass the Russian/Soviet version of War and Peace, which I rented from Netflix, for scale, drama, costume design, and fidelity to the book. After seeing Russians acting as Russians, it's hard to accept Brits acting as Russians in the BBC version, which was also good, but paled in comparison.

On the more general question, I'm often reluctant to see movies of books I loved because I've formed my own opinions about the characters and how they behave. I have to steel myself in advance to accept the requirements of cutting a novel down to a 2-hour movie (I do plan to see Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy because I'm curious about how they did it). On the other hand, I often enjoy movies of books I would never read (e.g., The Devil Wears Prada) because I generally seek entertainment when I see movies, and seriousness when I read books.

Mar 24, 2012, 10:22am Top

>207 rebeccanyc: I hadn't really thought about film adaptation surpassing the literature when I wrote the question! (the question comes out of: yes, the Hunger Games which I saw yesterday with my daughter, who has read those books - I haven't).

I enjoy seeing how books are adapted to screen and l like to think about why they chose to do what. If I've read the book first, I don't have any conflicts seeing how the film may interpret the characters.

Mar 24, 2012, 12:49pm Top

Q 15 - I think the film of Out of Africa was outstanding, even with the bizarre casting choice of Robert Redford. When I heard they were making a movie of it, I was extremely puzzled on how they were going to turn THAT book into a film. I didn't realize they were using a whole slew of books in order to do so, including biographies of Denys Finch-Hatten and Karen Blixen. So the end result was very different from the original book, but they were both really, really lovely. Twenty-five years later and I'm still gushing.

I'll have to think about the classics one.

Edited: Mar 24, 2012, 1:07pm Top

An example that really impressed me recently was The Remains of the Day. I read the book before seeing the movie and kept thinking that I didn't remotely see how it could have been successfully adapted for the screen. Indeed, if I didn't know better, I would have thought it was completely un-filmable, since everything important in the novel happens inside the main character's head, and it's all subtly implied rather than shown. I watched the movie more out of curiosity than anything, and I was amazed by how well it worked, and how faithful it was to the book. I'm still not quite sure how it managed that, I think maybe Anthony Hopkins is some kind of wizard.

I'm kind of blanking on examples for part 2 of the question right now, although I'm sure there must be some good ones.

As far as movies that are better than the books go, I think there are occasional examples. My personal favorite is The Hunt for Red October. I saw the movie before reading the book, and really enjoyed it. It's got a nice, tense, well-paced plot. The book, however, moves at a crawl, with digressions for many, many dry lectures about submarine engines, not to mention the fact that if Clancy is going to introduce some minor character just to kill him off five minutes later, he first has to devote at least a thousand words to telling us his entire dull backstory. Fortunately, you can't really do that on the screen, so effectively, they extracted all the good stuff from the story to put into the movie.

Mar 24, 2012, 1:20pm Top

I need to think about excellent adaptations before I can answer this question. But it made me think of something I heard said once, that for The English Patient, anyone who read the book first thought the book was much better, anyone who saw the film first thought the film was the best. I suppose that could be because the book and film were very different in style, even though the story was pretty much the same. I read the book first and loved it, didn't think much of the film.

Mar 24, 2012, 1:26pm Top

Ah, got one: Winter's Bone, which was an amazing film. I think it was excellent because it was a great film in its own right, with a superb central performance by Jennifer Lawrence, and a lot of great supporting roles, by people who weren't professional actors but rather people from the area of the Ozarks where the book is set. The book is very well written, but the film is unforgettable - and somehow makes the characters more immediate. Reading the book, I was always conscious of a certain distance because the events described were so very far from my own personal experience.

Mar 24, 2012, 3:53pm Top

>212 wandering_star: That was an amazing film!!! (though I didn't read the book). The girl in that is the one starring in "The Hunger Games," right?

With regarding classics: I like watching adaptations of the same literary classics and I'm fascinated with the difference choices made to tell/show the same story. So, I watch (and yes, own) lots of Austen, Brontes, Hardy, Gaskell, Eliot, Dickens, James...etc.(and yes, we can add Shakespeare to the list) As I mentioned before, I have no problem separating out my experience with the book and my experience with the various films.

For a contemporary book/film duo, I thought the Icelandic adaptation of Arnuld Indridason's crime novel Jar City was excellent. They cast very ordinary looking people (unlike the Hollywood treatment) who played the parts very close to the way I envisioned them in the book. Generally, well done and I considered the film a nice visual, accessory piece to the book.

Mar 24, 2012, 4:13pm Top

One classic movie adaptation that I really love is A Room With a View--it's one of my all time favourite films. I read the book a few years after the movie came out and it didn't do much for me, but I should reread it because I'm sure I'd like it better now. But as it stands, I think the movie is far better than the book -- the soundtrack! The cinematography! The locations! Maggie Smith as Charlotte Bartlett! Helena Bonham-Carter's hair extensions!

That movie was probably responsible for me starting to date my now-husband. (Oh, you speak Italian? You have lots of family living in Tuscany? Why, yes, you're rather attractive after all.")

Mar 24, 2012, 4:20pm Top

Films which surpass the books they are adapted from is something which has intrigued me for the past couple of years. Before that, I always thought the book was better. The Reader and Revolutionary Road were both films I saw before I read the book. In each case, the film motivated me to read the book, and in each case I found the film better. Then someone suggested that might be because they both had the same actress, Kate Winslet, but although I thought her performances were very good, I don't believe this was the entire reason.

A film which didn't quite follow the book, but which I feel was faithful to the story, is the adaptation of A Single Man. When We Were Orphans seemed to have very little to do with the book, yet each was very well done.

I think my favourite adaptation is the version of The Quiet American with Michael Caine, whom I thought did his best role ever.

As for films from books written before the age of film, Roman Polanski's Tess of the D'urbervilles comes to mind. There were some things that did not ring quite true for that era, but overall it was beautiful to watch.

Love the questions. They will have me thinking all weekend and I will probably change my mind several times, but these were off the top of my head. I have to agree with everyone else on this subject too, except I didn't know Jar City had been filmed. I will have to look for that as I am a fan of Indridason. Winter's Bone was amazing.

Mar 24, 2012, 4:38pm Top

>215 SassyLassy: I think I would have to rewatch that "Tess" - it's been ages. If I remember correctly, it was sexed up a bit, but yes, beautiful watch.

Mar 24, 2012, 5:36pm Top

It's interesting to read all your comments. I think most of you watch a lot more movies than I do, as I haven't seen most of the movies you are talking about. We hardly ever go out to the movies anymore, and my Netflix choices sit around for weeks.

Mar 24, 2012, 9:03pm Top

Joyce, interesting comment on A room with a view. I love both the book and the film. It is one of those films where some of the marvellous prose from the book has been used in the film.

As a film A room with a view works perfectly. Great casting, great photography and a very satisfying story.

As a book A Room with a view is almost perfect. Some great writing that can be read over and over again.

I would be happy to watch the film again and read the book again.

Mar 24, 2012, 10:23pm Top

3218 - Okay, you've convinced me. I know I have to read A Room With a View again. I know I wasn't in the right frame of mind when I read it, and I'm pretty sure I'd love it this time. My problem is that I have so many unread books that I hate to reread anything!

Mar 25, 2012, 1:26am Top

#213, yes, Jennifer Lawrence also plays Katniss, a role which has surprising similarities to her character in Winter's Bone (young girl forced to grow up before her time in order to support her family).

Mar 25, 2012, 10:32am Top

I don't have time to think about this a ton right now, but we can't go any further without mentioning To Kill a Mockingbird with the wonderful Gregory Peck. Back with more thoughts later.

Mar 25, 2012, 11:04am Top

For the modern film: the Tarkovskii version of Solaris, 1972, based on Stanislaw Lem's novel of that name. Thought the film conveyed the mystery and terror of the human cosmonauts' meeting with the incomprehensible planet. But the film had to leave out my favorite part, Lem's second chapter, in which he imagines a century of so of scholarly disputation on the nature of the planet; a vast corpus of careful argument concerning something the scholars have not the first clue about.

The more recent George Clooney version is also good, but suffers from having been based on the Tarkovskii, not the book. Actually, English readers of Solaris in general have been handicapped, because the only translation for many years was a secondary translation from the French version - Lem wrote in Polish. There's a new, direct translation that I haven't read yet. And, wow, there was a 1968 Russian TV film I didn't know about.

For the classical book-to-film, Pride and Prejudice, the Jennifer Ehle/Colin Firth 1995 series version. Thought it was splendid in showing all the questions of manners and propriety; also the love story. Like every adaptation of the book I've seen, it could have been more explicit about what Austen did not need to be: the harshness of the life awaiting the Bennet women if one of the sisters did not marry well.

Mar 25, 2012, 1:34pm Top

So many great ones have already been mentioned - and I'll quickly jump on the Room With a View (one of the only films I used to be able to recite along with the characters, I'd seen it so many times) and To Kill a Mockingbird bandwagons.

One that comes to mind if but for one particular line from the play and how it was conceptualized and delivered in the film:

Richard III - the film is set in an alternative 1930s fascist Britain with Ian McKellan as Richard, the ruler hoping to become dictator. He gets stuck in a jeep, and, as the wheels spin as he's trying in vain to reverse out of his predicament, he delivers the infamous, 'A horse! A horse! My kingdom for a horse'. That scene and McKellan's delivery of that line have stuck with me for over 15 years.

Mar 25, 2012, 2:46pm Top

I definitely agree with To Kill a Mockingbird, and I actually think that the movie version of Gone With the Wind is better than the book - though I did see both of these films before reading the books.

I thought Atonement was fantastic - both the book and the movie. The film made a few changes, but they mostly made sense to me, and it caught the tone of the novel quite well. The book is so interior (or at least the first chunk is) and the film translates this well to screen.

I quite like the 1994 version of Little Women too, though again, I saw the film before reading the novel, and I was 8 at the time, so it has good childhood memories associated with it. I don't actually know of a single film that I liked better than the novel, if I had read the novel first.

Mar 25, 2012, 4:06pm Top

I agree with so many of the books mentioned, and so I have been trying to come up with something else to add to the discussion. (Out of Africa and The English Patient were the two films that came to mind as I was reading the question.)

Enchanted April barely fits the first category as the film was based on a book written in 1922 by Elizabeth von Arnim. The film is as enchanting as its title. The "castle" where it was shot is the same one von Arnim wrote about.

Kipling's story of "The Man Who Would Be King" was realized spectacularly in film with Michael Caine and Sean Connery in the main roles. The movie and the actors capture the story about as well as anything and it is a marvelous adventure/buddy film on top of all.

Apr 5, 2012, 10:27am Top

chiming in late.

The first movie that came to mind was A River Runs Through It with Robert Redford directing and narrating. A favorite book and a great movie. But, then I also thought of Empire of the Sun, which I'll reverse my comments and say, a favorite movie and a great book.

For classics - the only one I can think of is To Kill a Mockingbird, but that's a pretty darn good movie-book thing.

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